It was 155 years ago today that French poet Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) was published, leading to his prosecution for obscenity charges. He was heavily fined and struggled with a ban against the work for years. Still, the volume centering on themes of eroticism, memory, death, corruption, and decadence had a number of admirers who applauded the poet’s unyielding words. Madame Bovary author Gustave Flaubert told Buadelaire he had “found a way to rejuvenate Romanticism,” while others called the work “immense, prodigious, and unexpected.”
Although his tempestuous, bohemian lifestyle and philosophies garnered much attention, Baudelaire’s radical use of composition and verse resonated and had a significant impact on later poets and the literary world at large. He wasn’t alone, however. We explored several other early radical poets past the break. As always, feel free to leave your own picks below.
Qiu Jin (1875-1907)
Revolutionary Chinese heroine, feminist, and activist Qiu Jin founded a radical women’s journal, attempted to overthrow the Qing Dynasty, and rallied for women’s rights to marry freely and receive an education. After her own experiences with foot binding, she even attempted to ban the ancient, sadistic practice. Her poems are imbued with the same spirit of defiance and empowerment, evident in lines like: “Don’t tell me women are not the stuff of heroes / I alone rode over the East Sea’s winds for ten thousand leagues.”